ST. GEORGE — A former high school teacher was ordered to serve up to 30 years in prison for sex abuse.

John Robert James Cody, 42, was sentenced to four consecutive terms of one to 15 years in prison for three counts of sexual abuse of a child and forcible sexual abuse, both second-degree felonies, in 5th District Court by Judge Eric Ludlow. He was also ordered to serve a jail sentence of one year for sexual battery, a class A misdemeanor, but that sentence is to run concurrent to his prison sentence.

Cody pleaded guilty to the charges in January.

According to court documents, Cody molested a girl between the ages of 10 and 12 by touching her beneath her clothing and underwear on multiple occasions. The girl reported the abuse to her mother, who contacted police.

In a letter to the girl's mother, Cody wrote that "he knows he is sick, has a problem and that he needs professional help," according to court documents. Officers noted that Cody was charged for similar offenses with different victims.

Deputy County Attorney Ryan Shaum said that Cody also touched three girls between 11 and 18 years old at a community swimming pool in two separate incidents between 2008 and 2009. None of the victims involved in those incidents knew Cody.

"(There was) touching beneath the clothing under the guise of playing pool games," Shaum said.

Cody was previously a teacher at Pine View High School in St. George. However, his victims were not his students.

Shaum said Cody will serve a minimum of four years in prison and a maximum of 30 years, as Utah law does not allow a prison term to exceed 30 years unless it is a life sentence.